ATLANTA — Eight people are facing charges for conspiring to defraud the Georgia Department of Labor of more than tens of millions of dollars in federal funds intended for unemployment benefits.
Of the eight, seven have been indicted, and one defendant has already pleaded guilty to her role.
According to court documents, the following are accused of filing more than 5,000 fraudulent unemployment insurance claims: Tyshion Nautese Hicks, 30, of Vienna, Georgia; Shatara Hubbard, 34, of Warner Robins, Georgia; Torella Wynn, 30, of Cordele, Georgia; Macovian Doston, 29, of Vienna; Kenya Whitehead, 35, of Cordele; A’Darrion Alexander, 27, of Warner Robins; Membrish Brown, 27, of Vienna; and Edith Nate Hicks, 45, of Atlanta, Georgia.
The claims resulted in at least $30 million in stolen benefits meant to assist unemployed individuals during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to court documents.
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The Department of Justice says the defendants created fake employers and fabricated lists of employees using stolen personally identifiable information from thousands of identity theft victims and filed fraudulent unemployment insurance claims on the GaDOL website.
The defendants allegedly stole PII from a variety of sources, including by paying Hicks, an employee of an Atlanta-area health care and hospital network, to unlawfully obtain patients’ PII from the hospital’s database.
Officials say those charged also had the stolen unemployment funds to be disbursed in the form of prepaid debit cards.
Hicks, Hubbard, Wynn, Doston, Whitehead, Alexander, and Brown are each charged by indictment with conspiracy to commit mail fraud, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.
Hicks and Doston are also charged with aggravated identity theft, which carries a mandatory two-year prison sentence that must be imposed consecutively with any other sentence. Alexander is also charged with money laundering, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.
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Hicks was charged with criminal information with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and pleaded guilty to this offense on Nov. 15.
According to her plea agreement, Hicks unlawfully used her employer’s patient databases to steal PII for the unemployment fraud scheme in exchange for payments via Chime, Venmo, and Cash App.
Officials say Hicks unlawfully accessed at least 1,600 Atlanta-area patients’ personal info during the conspiracy. Hicks faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. A sentencing date has not been scheduled.
If you believe you are a victim in this case, you are asked to contact the Fraud Section’s Victim Witness Unit toll-free at (888) 549-3945 or by email at email@example.com.
You are also encouraged to visit the U.S. Department of Justice’s webpage for this case at http://www.justice.gov/criminal-vns/case/united-states-v-tyshion-nautese-hicks-et-al.
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